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A new survey out of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association (MRFA) is showing, what it describes, as the “bleak” financial situation facing the food service industry in the province.

The association, which serves as an advocate to 400 restaurant members and 100 associate members, surveyed its members in order to collect data, which it plans to present to the provincial government in hopes of receiving sector-specific aid.

The results show that majority of respondents have lost a large percentage of revenue compared to what they brought in last year. Forty per cent said they’ve lost between 40 and 60 per cent of revenue, and 31 per cent saying they’ve lost more than 60 per cent of revenue.

As for a decrease in guest attendance, nearly 40 per cent of respondents said their guest attendance is down between 40 and 60 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, and nearly 38 per cent said it’s down more than 60 per cent. The survey showed that a mere 1.9 per cent of people said their guest attendance is down less than 10 per cent.

The survey also shows how the pandemic has affected job security in the food service industry.

Nearly 27 per cent of respondents said they’ve been forced to lay off 60 per cent of workers, 11.5 per cent said they’ve laid off 40 to 60 per cent and 25 per cent have laid off between 20 and 40 per cent.

Almost 11 per cent of those surveyed said they’ve laid off nearly 11 per cent of workers, with 22 per cent saying they’ve laid off less than 10 per cent of employees.

The pandemic has also brought about extra costs for restaurants, as they’ve had to invest in personal protective equipment (PPE).

Nearly six per cent of those surveyed reported spending between $4,000 and $6,000 a month on PPE, around 25 per cent said they’re paying between $2,000 and $4,000 a month, and 31 per cent are spending between $1,000 and $2,000 a month. About 33 per cent of respondents said PPE is costing them less than $1,000 a month.

Finally, the survey asked MRFA members the approximate cost of their deferred payments, bills and taxes, with 18 per cent saying $80,000 or more and 11.5 per cent reporting $60,000 to $80,000.

More than 15 per cent of surveyed members said their deferred payments, bills and taxes are between $40,000 and $60,000, 17 per cent said between $20,000 and $40,000, and 12.5 per cent reported between $10,000 and $20,000. The rest of the respondents, or 21 percent of them, said less than $10,000.

“With many restaurants facing detrimental increases in debt load, we need sector specific assistance now… or we face significant losses as restaurants start to default on these excessive and mounting debt levels,” said Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the MRFA, in a news release.

“We now need Manitoban’s including food service workers, to help us engage the government to create these programs to save our industry, we need you now more than ever.”

The MRFA has also started the #savembrestaurants social media campaign in order to bring awareness to the challenges restaurants are facing. The association is also giving out free face masks to restaurants.

In total, 107 MRFA members participated in the survey.